Despite being formulaic from start to finish, Southpaw manages to pack an emotional punch largely due to the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal, who really sunk his teeth into the material and explored the psyche of his character. Gyllenhaal clearly spent a lot of time at the gym, bulking up to play brash, confident, yet vulnerable boxer Billy Hope.
As the film opens, Billy is living the dream. A former delinquent with a few stints in jail, his rage has made him a world champion. Along with fame and fortune, Billy has a beautiful wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), and daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence). Maureen watches with obvious concern as his fights get more punishing. His speech is slightly slurred and he stammers from time to time. Maureen openly worries that he’s doing irreversible damage to himself.
When tragedy strikes, Billy quickly finds himself in a downward spiral. Everything he’s worked hard for begins to slip away. Billy has to fight to keep his daughter and regain his career. Billy begins training with Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) at his dark, sweaty gym. The fight back to the top has every predictable trope of the boxing genre, but it’s the work of Gyllenhaal and Whitaker that makes the film compelling. Billy, spoiled and quick to anger, is difficult to get along with. Whitaker is tough, but a man with his own baggage. Some of what’s bother Tick becomes clear in a scene after one of the kids he’s trying to help at his gym is shot by his father while protecting his mother. These are two damaged individuals who need each other in equal measure.
Make no mistake about it though, this is Jake Gyllenhaal’s movie and screenwriter Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) has given him solid material to work with. The biggest issue with Southpaw is that it’s the kind of underdog story that has been told countless times before: an athlete at the top of their game is knocked down by tragedy. You know he’s going to come out of it all as a better man and father; there are no surprises. Despite that, Southpaw is worth checking out just to see Jake Gyllenhaal deliver another impressive performance.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray release has a very nice level of clarity and detail throughout. The blood and sweat from the opening boxing match is vivid and you can see the imperfections on Jake Gyllenhaal’s skin. Depth is wonderful and black levels are deep. Colors are bright and vibrant and flesh tones look natural. There’s no dirt or debris to speak of.
The English 5.1 DTSHD-MA soundtrack is well balanced and faithfully reproduces the dialogue. Dynamics during the fight scenes are solid, as are the surrounds, particularly with scenes featuring fight crowds. Ambient effects are in the rears.
English and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 20:46) There’s a Play All selection or you can watch the following individual deleted scenes by selecting them: “Breakfast,” “Getting Ready Extended,” “Billy’s Fall,” “Tick’s Gym,” “Leila’s Fight,” “Angela and Billy,” “Be Respectful” and “Don’t Get Hit Too Much.”
- Southpaw: Inside the Ring” (HD, 21:30) – This EPK brings us into the ring with Jake, director Antoine Fuqua, cast members and assorted folks from the boxing world. Fuqua has a great love of the sport. The cast and crew all talk about the film and its themes. Being authentic was important to everyone.
- “Q&A with Cast” (HD, 18:56) This Q&A was for the Screen Actors Guild, moderated by Dave Karger (chief correspondent of Fandango) in Los Angeles on July 13, 2015. Miguel Gomez, 50 Cent, Oona, Rachel and Jake all take part in this discussion.
- Extended Training Montage (HD, 4:03) four months of training for the movie caught on film.
- A DVD and Digital HD copy of the film.